Pathfinder is the first full-length album from Swedish prog rock project, Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side and is the follow-up to The Other Side (see review), an EP released in 2013.
The album follows in the fine tradition of Scandinavian prog with its influences including The Flower Kings, as well as other legends such as Spock's Beard, Pink Floyd and Sting.
Project leader Jonas Lindberg, who plays guitars, bass, keyboards and provides vocals, is joined by the four other musicians who appeared on the EP, namely Jonas Sundquist on lead vocals; Calle Stålenbring (guitars), Jonathan Lundberg (drums) and Michael Ottosson (Hammond organ, piano and keyboards), along with Jenny Sandgren (lead and backing vocals), Nicklas Thelin (guitars) and Maria Olsson (percussion).
A keyboard sounding like a flute starts off Square One, which suddenly erupts into a much heavier groove accompanied by a distinct swing rhythm. Sundquist's distinctive, strong voice is backed up by some lovely vocal harmonies. It's a wonderfully engaging composition, full of rich guitars, solid keyboards and plenty of tempo changes.
Lost is a very different proposition, Sundquist's plaintive, soaring vocals underpinned by sombre keyboards and huge guitars. On Peace Of Mind, there are more choppy synth riffs, a very understated piano section and plenty of shifts in tempo.
The title track Pathfinder brings in a far more atmospheric dynamic with a beautiful resonant recurring bass motif and Sundquist's ringing vocals hitting the high notes over strident guitar.
Acoustic guitar begins Leaving The World Behind, which has a slightly mellower vibe throughout and Ottosson's Hammond organ adds richness and depth to the melody line.
Lindberg takes on lead vocal for On The Horizon, a song full of light and shade, during which the keyboards - synths and piano - come very much to the fore.
The album's only instrumental Zenith starts in jazzier vein before heavier guitars come charging in and work alongside choppy keyboard sections to add colour and texture.
The curtain comes down with Closer To The Sun, the longest track on the album and another thoroughly absorbing composition, that rises and falls and incorporates both chunky and lyrical guitars, distinctive Hammond organ and stunning vocal harmonies along the way, before drifting off into a softer piano ending.
Pathfinder has many redeeming qualities. I like the way it rocks; I also applaud the tightness of the musical unit and the way the players articulate the complexity of the songs, giving the album excellent balance throughout.
This album is certainly a grower and one of the hidden gems of 2016.
**** Alison Reijman
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